Dangers of E-cigarettes: Mayo Clinic Radio
Are e-cigarettes healthy?
From knocking back brews to simply sitting down, all your favourite vices have come under fire of late. And it seems there is a new target in the crosshairs. In vaping has slipped quietly under the radar. That is, until now. A mammoth new study of e-cigarette users from theAmerican Journal of Physiology has found smoking increases the risk of infection because it damages hundreds of genes in the immune system – most commonly around the nose, mouth and throat.
The problem with targeting e-cigs is that they're a new technology; any long-term effects simply can't be proven yet (much to the glee of the #vapenation massive, who will continue to puff away until their favourite hobby is clinically disavowed). This points to an important question: if you’re trying to stub it out should you persevere with e-cigs? We unpackaged the science behind their effects to clear the air for good.
1. Stimulate your mind
Taking a drag from an e-cig provides a hit of stimulants to help you through the day. Inhaling causes the atomizer to heat liquid nicotine, which you breathe in, while signalling the battery to light up the tip. This ‘burn’ effect is style, not substance, since smokers crave the sensory stimulus.
(Related: are e-cigarettes the best way to quit?)
2. Taste the difference
E-cigs affect the brain in the same way tobacco cigarettes do, reports Imperial College London scientist Matt Wall. Nicotine patches and gum are unable to fully replicate smoking, because the taste and hand-to-mouth action are missing. The brain’s reward centre won’t be ignited.
3. Dodge toxic shocks
Scoring your nicotine fix via vapour is a safer alternative to burning tobacco. However, e-cigarettes still harbour toxic chemicals – such as lead and formaldehyde – albeit to a lesser degree. Don’t be fooled by the sweet aromas either: cinnamon e-juice packs the most carcinogens.
(Related: other secret unhealthy chemicals in your home)
4. Stub out, be quids in
Liquid nicotine is proven to help you quit the habit. “By experimenting with different strengths of nicotine, you can find your sweet spot and then work on cutting down,” says tobacco researcher Prof Peter Hajek. And you’ll save money too: refillable e-cigs cost as little as £3.
5. Vaporise lung cancer
For smokers who first lit up just to look cool, e-cigarettes still allow you to channel your inner James Dean. Only your cloud of mystery comprises harmless vapour, whereas regularcigarette smokestays in the air for 2hr, potentially raising the lung cancer risk for those around you by 25%.
The MH verdict
E-cigs can be a useful tool for those struggling to go cold turkey. However, the sweet flavours, low cost and reduced risk mean they can be appealing to non-smokers too. Your takeaway message is this: despite the immunity risks, vaping is a nascent industry so long-term studies on the health impact are required. “The lack of regulation leaves no way of verifying what’s actually in them,” says Cancer Research UK. Best puffed infrequently.
Video: Mayo Clinic Minute: Are e-cigarettes safe?
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